Brenau mourns passing of Trustee Emerita Jane Wood Banks

May 25, 2021
Michael Lowe
Jane Banks (Submitted photo)

Jane Wood Banks, Brenau University trustee emerita and longtime supporter of the university’s nursing program, died Sunday, May 23. She was 94 years old.

Banks, who served on Brenau’s Board of Trustees from 1989-2005, took a personal interest in the medical and nursing professions because of the work of her husband, Dr. Rafe Banks Jr. The highly respected North Georgia urologist and former chief of staff at Northeast Georgia Medical Center also served on Brenau’s board from 1979 until his death in 1981.

Today, the Banks’ legacy lives on through the Jane and Rafe Banks Jr. Scholarship fund, which was established in 2000 to assist students pursuing an undergraduate degree in nursing at Brenau. Troy Heidesch, director of Brenau’s Mary Inez Grindle School of Nursing, said the scholarship has provided an annual award to outstanding students who are active in their communities.

“This year, the award was split between two students that, in addition to their nursing school work, volunteered and administered COVID-19 vaccines in Hall County and set up and organized mission trips,” Heidesch said. “Because of people like Jane and Rafe, Brenau students are able to go on to have successful careers and have a positive impact on their communities.”

Jane Banks was born in Jackson, Mississippi, on Oct. 30, 1926. She earned a Bachelor of Science in mathematics from Vanderbilt University in 1947 and later worked as a medical transcriptionist at Emory Hospital in Atlanta. It was there she met Rafe, who had returned to Atlanta for urological training following his service as a front-line field surgeon in World War II.

Jane and Rafe Banks Jr. were married in 1949 and two years later moved to Gainesville, where they participated in the opening of the new Hall County Hospital, now Northeast Georgia Medical Center. Upon her husband’s death in 1981, Banks became the first female member of the board of directors of First National Bank in Gainesville. During her time on the board, First National grew to $3.1 billion in assets and merged with Regions Bank in 1995.

Banks was a member of Gainesville First United Methodist Church, past president of the Junior Service League and served in multiple civic capacities in Gainesville, including various hospital organizations. She loved to travel, having traveled most of the world, and was an avid lifelong golfer.

“We are saddened by the passing of Jane Wood Banks,” said Brenau University President Anne Skleder. “Banks’ generosity and devotion to nursing education have left a lasting impact that will continue to benefit not only Brenau’s students but also the community for years to come. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family.”

Banks is survived by her four children, Rafe Banks III (Zuma), David Wood Banks (Nancy). Elizabeth Banks Campbell (Robert), and Baylor Bateman Banks (Laura), as well as 13 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Memorial Park Funeral Home North Riverside Chapel is in charge of arrangements. Read more about Banks’ life and legacy on their website. Graveside services will be held at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 26, at Alta Vista Cemetery in Gainesville. The family will receive friends from 10-11 a.m. at Memorial Park North Riverside Chapel prior to the service.